Saturday, November 24, 2018


#NA #CollegeRomance #UniversityRomance #MentalIllness #TurbulentLove

This book is set in 2005 and 2006.

~ 1 ~
I didn’t want to be here, felt way out of my comfort zone. It wasn’t for me, wasn’t the kind of thing I did. Unfortunately, it was exactly what my best friend would do, a friend who was right now shaking with excitement at the thought of entering the strip joint, or in her words, ‘the male review’.
“Why do they call it that?” I asked Julia.
My best friend turned to look up at me. Even in her six-inch heels, she was still a couple of inches shorter. Though, I was tall for a girl at five ten, or what Julia called, ‘model height’, which was why I usually wore flats since I was always self-conscious of being taller than guys.
“What are you talking about?” Julia asked, stopping in the cloakroom to hand over her white leather jacket.
“A review,” I answered. “What’s there to review? The way the guys shake their butts? Or the size of their willies?”
Julia barked out a laugh. “Not a review, dummy, a revue,” she said, spelling it out. “Now, hand over your jacket to the... mmm... rather nice man.” She ran her tongue over her teeth, giving the bare-chested guy behind the counter a flirty wink. He was wearing a black, silky apron with the name Molly’s printed across the nether regions, his rather impressive torso making me blush. I wondered how I was going to handle watching guys pump and grind in even less if I couldn’t even handle the cloakroom guy.
I quickly handed my jacket over to him, getting a ticket in return. He gave Julia a cheeky smile, clearly having heard what she’d said about him, then turned around to hang up our jackets, giving us a whole different kind of cheekiness. His arse was barer than my uncle’s bald head, minus the shine, though he had a lipstick tattoo on his right butt cheek.
Julia giggled, while her older sister—who was wearing a white veil for her hen night—told him she’d love to give him a matching kiss on his other cheek. The man didn’t respond, other than to take another woman’s jacket, probably used to a whole lot more than what Katie had said.
Feeling embarrassed, I grabbed Julia’s arm and pulled her through the doorway that led into the main room. The space was much brighter than I expected, the disco balls above our heads sending shards of light everywhere, making me think of Saturday Night Fever. I could just imagine John Travolta strutting out on stage, thrusting his finger up in the air to the cheers of women yelling, ‘Get them off!’ And there were a lot of women filling the space, from short to tall, skinny to fat, young and old. I was probably one of the youngest since I was eighteen, though Julia was even younger at seventeen, her fake I.D. working a treat to get her in.
A waiter holding an empty tray, and dressed in the same black apron as the cloakroom man, slipped past Julia, capturing her attention. It was as though he was holding an invisible string, yanking Julia’s head around to follow his bare arse.
Jules,” I said, tugging on her hand. “We’ll lose your sister if you keep stopping to look at every male butt.”
Worth it,” she sighed, giving me a smile brighter than the tacky disco ball above our heads—something that might’ve looked great in 1975, but not 2005.
“Anyway, I know where our seats are,” she added.
She entwined our fingers and pulled me through the throng of women and a few men, who looked just as excited as the women, a couple of them as camp as Liberace. The show was undeniably popular, the wall-to-wall throng of people not what I’d expected for a tacky strip joint that was hidden in a side-alley off K Road. And it wasn’t just middle-class women filling it either, some of the patrons dressed to the nines—like Julia. My best friend always dressed to impress, and she did look great, her sleek white dress matching her even sleeker blonde hair that was smoothed back into a high ponytail, or what she called a ‘power’ ponytail, something she said all the stars wore, and since she was a star she should wear it too. I’d laughed at that comment, saying that her ‘daddy’ calling her a star didn’t mean she was one. She’d lifted her chin up in a haughty fashion, declaring that she was a star in her own right since she’d been in a Herald article about New Zealand’s young elite society. I’d held back from reminding her that she’d only been in there because her dad was one of the richest men in the country.
She tugged me towards the stage, where Katie and her group of friends were already seated in the front row, the Jachmanns always getting the best seats.
Julia sat down in the chair next to her sister, leaving me the aisle seat. “I hope you’ve got a stack of ten-dollar bills,” she said a bit too loudly, her grin pretty much telling me where I’d be stuffing them.
“It better not be that kind of show,” I said, not wanting to waste money on a stripper, especially since I needed every penny for university.
Julia didn’t have the same worries as I did. Unlike her parents, mine weren’t paying for me since they were no longer in my life, and even if they were, they couldn’t have afforded it. Only my uncle was wealthy, and I was too proud to take the handout he’d offered me. I’d turned it down, pretending that my Fine Arts scholarship would cover everything. It was a lie, since it only covered board and my university fees, not extending to food and other necessities. It was why I was being so frugal with my money, needing every penny from the fast food job I’d acquired a few days ago. Julia had gaped at me in horror when I’d told her about the job, thinking I was mad for lowering myself to... What did she say? I couldn’t remember, but it hadn’t been very flattering, highlighting just how elitist she could be. And when she’d learned that I’d turned down my uncle’s money, she’d told me off, basically calling me an idiot. She just didn’t understand that I didn’t feel right about taking money from him. Nor did she understand that I wanted to survive on my own, instead of taking handouts from someone who was only offering because he felt obliged to.
The music changed from a slow jazzy tune to a much faster pop beat, sending the women around us into a frenzy, everyone probably thinking that a stripper was about to appear. But instead of a male hunk strutting onto the stage, a bleached-blonde woman tottered out in heels that defied gravity, making her look even skinnier. I was sure she could hide behind the pole in the centre of the stage if it weren’t for her fake boobs, because those two things definitely didn’t look like Mother Nature had played a part in making them.
She raised her free hand to quieten down the women. “Welcome, ladies!” She laughed. “And a few gents.” She waved at them with her fingers, clearly knowing the guys. “You’re all in for a real treat tonight, with some sweet young things ready to strip for your pleasure.”
“Sweet young things?” I muttered to Julia. “Hope they’re not going to come out dressed as schoolboys, because if they do, I’m out of here.”
“Don’t be stupid,” she said, elbowing me, though her broad grin lit up the room, my comment amusing her. “Anyone under forty would be a sweet young thing to that old biddy.”
“She doesn’t look that old, late forties at a guess.”
That is old, like your taste in clothes.” She flicked the pale-green scarf around my neck. “Take it off. If you’ve got the goods, you might as well flaunt them.”
I adjusted the silk scarf, far too shy to take it off, my black dress not covering enough of my chest. Julia had basically bullied me into wearing the tight little number, saying it looked, ‘Wonderful!’ And she was right, but it didn’t mean I felt comfortable wearing it without the scarf. I almost felt like one of those eighteenth-century damsels on a Mills & Boon cover, with my breasts doing their best to escape the bustier—or whatever they called it back then.
The music changed again, this time rolling into a raunchy number that I liked, but couldn’t remember the name of, my brain not working, the anticipation starting to get to me. The rail-thin blonde presenter raised her toothpick arms over her head and began to clap with her microphone still in her hand, amplifying the sound. The crowd started clapping along with her, some of the women yelling out in excitement. One of the camp guys let out an ear-splitting wolf whistle so loud I quickly covered my ears. Julia elbowed me, throwing a look that told me to clap along with everyone else. I did, feeling stupid for doing it, just not wanting to feel out of place even more than I already did.
A girl across the row from us started stomping her feet on the ground, setting off more women doing it. She looked about my age, very pretty, with gorgeous gypsy-like earrings that hung down to her bare shoulders, the straps on her red dress almost non-existent.
The presenter hollered, drawing my attention back to her. “And here he is!” She moved to the side, sweeping her arm out for whoever he was. The audience went crazy, cheering for the stripper to come out on stage. And he did, oh, he certainly did.
My mouth dropped open at the man sauntering onto the stage. He was dressed in black leather-like pants and a biker jacket over a white singlet. But it wasn’t his clothes and confident swagger that sent the women into a frenzy. Simply put...
He was drop-dead gorgeous.
He was young, eighteen or nineteen at a guess, with a face that looked like it belonged on a fashion magazine rather in a tacky strip joint. He also looked a touch too sweet to be a stripper, no hardened features staring out at the crowd, just innocence dressed in fake leathers. But that innocence was clearly an illusion, because the sweet visage vanished as a wicked grin swept across his face, his sinful lips looking like they’d kissed many girls—and their mothers too.
He stopped by the pole, sweeping the soft curls off his face. His hair was brown, just highlighted with golden hues. It looked like the sun had kissed it as well as his skin, his golden-brown tan suggesting he surfed rather than rode a Harley.
Julia gasped, “Oh. My. God. He’s beautiful,” she said, stating the obvious.
The music merged into another song I knew, but couldn’t remember the name of either, the stripper killing all of my brain cells—and decimating my ovaries at the same time.
He leaned his back against the pole in a languid, self-assured fashion, jutting out his groin. He toyed with his pants zipper, giving the screaming crowd a cheeky wink.
“Get them off, already!” Julia’s sister hollered, setting Julia off into a fit of giggles.
The stripper removed his hand from the zipper and opened up his leather jacket, lifting up his white singlet to show us a teasing peek of his torso, and it was one I definitely wanted to see more of, his stomach ripped.
“I’d love to lick that six-pack,” Julia said, breaking out into another fit of giggles.
The stripper lowered his singlet and closed his jacket, holding it together as he sauntered towards the front of the stage, stopping to open his jacket once more.
“Take it off!” Julia’s sister hollered louder, her friends seconding that, the women not shy, the rich girls used to getting what they wanted.
The stripper slipped one side off, slow and sexy, treating us to the other side next. He threw the jacket to the side of the stage, revealing a line tattoo circling the middle of his right forearm. There was writing above it, the words illegible from where I was sitting. He also had another tattooed line circling his left wrist, this one thicker, with words both above and under it.
Feet started stomping for him to hurry up, the tease dominating the strip part of the show. He raised a brow at the impatient hollers and lifted his singlet up, then lowered it down, raising his other hand as though he was asking us to shout louder. And Julia most certainly did, getting right into the swing of things, hollering, “Off! Off! Off!”
The stripper looked Julia’s way, giving her a smile, then in one swift move the singlet came off, revealing his naked torso, making the crowd go wild. Then, in the blink of an eye, he did a backflip, landing on his hands. He lowered himself into a breakdancing move, basically humping the floor. For a moment, I wondered what it would be like to be lying underneath him as he did that, causing me to flush at the thought.
Then he was back on his feet, jerking and moving his hips to the music, drawing closer to where I was sitting, so close that I could see the seams up the side of his shiny fake-leather pants. I soon found out that the seams weren’t purely for keeping his pants together when he ripped them off, revealing muscular thighs and a rather large bulge hidden beneath a jockstrap, making my own eyes bulge.
He turned to face away from us, revealing his naked butt, the black elastic of the jockstrap running above and under it, emphasising his assets even more.
Julia put her fingers in her mouth and let rip with an ear-splitting wolf-whistle that her ‘daddy’ would most definitely not think was becoming of her. The stripper turned his head in her direction, but instead of his eyes landing on Julia, they landed on me. That wicked smile returned. Horrified he thought I’d whistled at him, I shrank in my seat, so embarrassed I could die.
Julia’s sister hollered, “Shake that booty!”
And he did, all the while looking at me. I covered my eyes, now too embarrassed to watch. A thump made me uncover them. The stripper was standing next to me, all that naked flesh hovering over me. He was tall, just over six foot at a guess, and perfectly proportioned, the cut of his body mouth-watering to say the least. I basically gaped up at him, not knowing what to do, let alone think—unlike Julia. She reached past me, running her hand down his abs. Before she could go even lower, he picked me up, chair and all. I let out a shriek and grabbed around his neck, worried he was going to drop me, because I was far from light, my curvy figure closer to Marilyn Monroe’s than Kate Moss’s.
He lifted my chair onto the stage, causing me to let go of him. He then hoisted himself back up onto the stage and grabbed my chair, carrying me away from the edge. I could hear Julia and the rest of the hen party yelling out things, but I was in too much shock to understand a single word they were saying.
He placed my chair down and shimmied my dress up my legs before I’d realised what he’d done, the way he was looking at me so distracting. But I most certainly noticed when he jerked my legs apart, another shriek following. Grinning in response, he moved in between my legs and placed a finger under my chin, lifting it so I looked directly into his eyes. They were the freakiest eyes I’d ever seen. His right iris was a moss green, with hints of brown around the pupil, while his left one had the same brown hints, just with blue instead of green surrounding it.
Not taking his eyes off me, he backed up a bit and snapped my legs shut, then climbed onto my lap. I almost choked as he lifted my hands to his arse, yet I kept them there as though he’d superglued my palms to his bare flesh. Then he started grinding against me, his arse cheeks clenching beneath my hands, knocking my pulse rate out of the park, sending it to the heavens.
He wrapped a hand around my long brown hair and pulled my head back, forcing me to look up at him while he continued to grind against me, the way his jockstrap was filling out telling me he was enjoying his job a bit too much.
He let go of my hair and adjusted himself, then removed my hands from his arse, which I hadn’t realised were still there, too distracted by his intense stare. He climbed off me and dropped to the floor, doing another breakdancing move, then was back up on his feet, gyrating his crotch in front of my face. My eyes widened, because I could see the tip of his cock trying to escape the confines of his jockstrap. He gave me a knowing smile before adjusting himself once more, covering his cock, though I could still see its outline clear as day.
With my eyes locked on his package, I didn’t see his next move coming. In the blink of an eye his hands shot out, shoving my chair, causing me to let out a loud cry of fright as I tipped over backwards. But he caught the chair in a move I couldn’t quite comprehend, using it to do a flip over me, catching me on the other side.
I stared up at him as he looked down at me, that wicked smile of his morphing into a serious expression. He lowered his head and planted a kiss on my lips, knocking the breath out of me. His tongue swept between my lips, sneaking into my mouth. Forgetting where I was, I tangled my tongue with his, losing myself in the kiss.
Then his lips were gone, just like that. I gasped as he pushed my chair back up into its correct position, the suddenness of it all leaving my head spinning. He picked me up, placing my chair on the edge of the stage, doing a backflip into the aisle to a very rowdy and rude applause. He picked me up again, returning me and my chair to our original position next to Julia. He winked at me, then climbed back up onto the stage, blowing kisses to the crowd of screaming horny men and women. Then he turned away from us, removing his jockstrap, setting the room on fire, the audience going nuts. He threw the jockstrap over his shoulder and turned around to face us, covering his crotch with both hands. He backed up slowly, grinning as he did it. As he reached the back of the stage he lifted his hands for the briefest of moments, flashing us, then he was gone, disappearing behind the red curtains.
The audience yelled out, demanding that he return, but instead of the stripper the blonde presenter appeared, walking toward the stripper’s discarded jockstrap. She picked it up with a dirty smile, waving it in front of her.
“Did you love Nico?!” she shouted into her microphone.
A collective “Yeees!” bounced off the walls like bullets ricocheting everywhere.
Julia started yelling, “Bring him back! Bring him back!” which set off the other women in the hen party, causing a domino effect, everyone but me joining in.
The presenter waggled her finger at us as though we were naughty school girls. “No, no, no, lovely ladies and gents, you tired my poor Nico out. The sweet young thing needs his beauty rest. But we have more lovely men for your entertainment.” She swept her arm out. “Like Danny!”
An Italian-looking male strutted out onto the stage as though he thought he was every woman’s wildest dream. The audience welcomed him with cheers as he started pumping and grinding to the music, but my mind remained on Nico, all the strippers coming after him poor comparisons.

~ 2 ~
I stood just inside the door of my new apartment, sizing it up. There was a single bed tucked into the far right-hand corner by the window, with a circular table separating it from a tiny kitchen, and hopefully enough space for my drawing board. There was also a TV at the foot of the bed and a couch across from it.
I rolled my luggage over to the bed as a girl with wild orange hair appeared through a doorway next to the kitchen. She smiled at me with a stoned expression, her eyelids half closed.
Kia ora,” she said, saying hello in Māori, just with a heavy Scottish accent.
“Hi,” I said back, holding up the key I’d gotten from the student accommodation reception. “I’m your new flatmate. Kady Janeway.”
“As in Star Trek?”
I refrained from rolling my eyes, getting that a lot. “Yes, like Captain Janeway.”
“Weel, welcome, Captain,” she said, giving me a crooked grin, her green eyes now wide open, no longer looking stoned. I wondered whether I’d woken her up, even though it was a bit late in the day for her to be sleeping since it was almost two in the afternoon. But then again, it was Saturday. For all I knew, she could’ve partied well into the night, university parties supposedly wild.
“Am Annabelle,” she said, holding out a freckled hand that looked like it had never seen the light of day. Her face was also covered in freckles, but instead of looking bad, they made her look adorable.
I shook her hand. “Kady.”
Her grin grew. “Ye already said that.” She let go of my hand and indicated to the front door with a thumb. “Am aboot to grab a late lunch, ye want to come with me?”
“Sure,” I said, my stomach growling, my breakfast comprising of a cup of coffee. I’d been more concerned with moving into the student accommodation than eating, though there hadn’t been much to move, all of my belongings packed into two suitcases and one backpack. The only things that weren’t here yet were my drawing board, big case of art supplies, and desk, which my uncle had arranged for some movers to bring over later today. He’d been too busy to bring them over himself, though even if he hadn’t been, he still probably wouldn’t have brought them. He was a powerful entrepreneur, someone who snapped his fingers and got other people to do what he considered beneath him. It was why I was so glad to be away from him, his snobbery always rubbing me up the wrong way. But I was even more glad to be away from my auntie who was an even bigger snob. And that was why I would’ve happily traded the roomy pool house I’d been living in for the past three years for the small student apartment without even thinking twice. Plus, I’d earned it through my scholarship, which made me pump out my chest in pride, knowing that I’d gotten a place without my uncle’s help.
I followed Annabelle out of the apartment, heading down a noisy corridor of students. A couple of them were throwing a rugby ball over our heads, while others were moving into their own rooms, a few with their parents.
Not interested in watching happy families, I walked past them fast, descending the staircase with Annabelle instead of taking the lift. Our unit was on the second level of a towering peaches and cream building, which had peaked rooves and was broken up by rows of grey louvres. We headed through the courtyard, passing a group of Asian students bouncing a basketball between themselves, and stepped out onto the small side-road. The tantalising smell of kebab and pizza tickled my nose, enticing me to the fast food places lining the road, but Annabelle continued onwards, causing my stomach to protest loudly. She gave me an amused smile as the road opened up onto one of the city centre’s main streets. Our campus was in the middle of Auckland, businesses and the university sharing the same urban space.
Annabelle started chatting about all the best food places as we walked towards the main campus, the girl obviously knowing Auckland well.
“How long have you been living in New Zealand?” I asked, stopping momentarily at a pedestrian crossing that was directly across the road from a marae. Behind the triangular entrance, with a stylised Māori face at its apex, was a courtyard that led to a wharenui. The Māori meeting house was decorated with more traditional carvings and framed by trees, an urban landscape of buildings spreading out behind it.
“I’ve been ’ere for a few years,” Annabelle answered. “I lived oot in Wera with ma uncle.”
“That’s in South Auckland, isn’t it?” I asked, not really that familiar with the area, other than what Julia had told me about it. She’d basically ordered me to stay well clear of the place, the words gangs and poor people leaving her snobby mouth, which meant that she probably wouldn’t like my hometown either. Some people called Kaikohe an eighties version of South Auckland. I didn’t know whether it was true, and hadn’t felt the urge to see if it was, though it did make me question why I was friends with Julia. But her loving side outweighed her snobbish side, leaving me feeling guilty for questioning our friendship.
Annabelle nodded in reply to my question as we headed over another crossing. We walked past a large building that merged with a recreation centre, Annabelle telling me it was a student one. She steered me left, back to talking about food as we ascended a flight of stairs and crossed a quad, the Maths and Science block on our left.
“Why couldn’t we just get something from our road?” I asked, still thinking about pizza and kebabs.
“It’s cheaper ’ere, plus there’s more choice,” she said, leading me through a short walkway that led to a cafeteria on our left. “Nae to mention I loove the pancakes ’ere. I could live off ’em.”
Someone called out her name. She stopped in her tracks, a massive smile lighting up her freckled face. I turned to see who it was, my eyes widening as it landed on...
The male stripper I’d watched two weeks ago..
“Nico!” Annabelle called out loudly, making a beeline for him. He was seated in the far corner, boxed in by a pretty brunette who had long, straight hair just like mine. Though, she had much fairer skin, reminding me of a porcelain doll, her complexion flawless.
Annabelle stopped by his table. “Long time no see.”
“If you call a week a long time, I guess so.” Smiling with amusement, he pushed to his feet, his mismatched blue and green eyes turning to me, the brown in the centre not as noticeable in daylight.
I flushed at his attention, praying he didn’t remember me, even though I could never forget him.
The brunette nudged Nico’s leg with an elbow. “Aren’t you going to introduce me?” she practically demanded, a sour expression pulling at her glossy pink lips.
Nico took a step away from her as though he didn’t want her touching him. “This is my cousin,” he said, indicating to Annabelle.
Annabelle rolled her eyes. “Jus’ ’cause ma uncle married yer auntie disnae make us cousins. Plus, they’re divorced now, which doubly means we’re nae cousins, ye numpty.”
He laughed, his mismatched eyes twinkling at her. “Still calling you my cuz, babes.”
“If ye call me babes again, I’ll plant ma foot up yer arse.”
He laughed louder, his smile lighting up his whole face. He turned that smile on me, burning my cheeks with its brightness. “Who’s this?” he asked, taking in more than I felt comfortable with, his gaze lingering slightly too long on my chest.
“Someone ye’re nae allowed to touch.” Annabelle swung her arm over my shoulders, having to reach up a bit to get there. “Ma roommate’s off limits, ’cause there’s no way am listening to ye humping in ma flat.”
“Hey!” the pretty brunette said loudly, complaining before I could. “Nico won’t be humping anyone but me. He’s my boyfriend, so keep your greedy eyes off him,” she said, directing the last line at me.
“I wasn’t—”
Annabelle cut me off, “Nico’s everyone’s boyfriend, so ye better get used to it.”
The brunette snapped her head to Nico. “Tell her that’s not true.”
He sat back down. “It’s not,” he said, picking up the sub off his tray.
The brunette waved a hand at Annabelle in victory. “See!”
Nico spoke over her. “Because I don’t have girlfriends.”
Her head whipped back to him. “But I’m your girlfriend.”
“I wouldn’t let you be my girlfriend even if you paid me a million bucks,” he said, taking a bite out of his sub.
“Don’t say that!” she snapped, shoving his arm.
He jerked away from her, throwing the girl a nasty glare. “Don’t touch me,” he growled, swallowing down the bite of food.
“No buts! You shove me, you can shove off.”
“What the hell, Nico! What’s gotten into you?”
You. Just because I fucked you doesn’t make you my girlfriend.”
The girl’s face fell. “But—”
“Just piss off! I’ve had enough of you following me around like a stalker.”
Her hand whipped out, slapping him across the face. He dropped his sub on his tray and shot to his feet, the suddenness causing the girl to shriek.
“I told you not to touch me!” he yelled.
She pushed to her feet and backed up fast, looking unsure of what to do and more than a touch scared. “You said—”
Nothing. It’s not my fault you live in a fantasy world. I told you the deal and you agreed to it.”
She burst into tears and grabbed her bag, taking off.
“That was nasty,” Annabelle said, shaking her head at him. “And totally unnecessary.”
He grimaced. “She was getting on my nerves, the slap was the last straw.” His eyes moved to me as though I’d slapped him instead of the brunette. “And why do you look familiar. Did I fuck you too?”
My eyes widened. “No!”
A small smile replaced his angry expression. “True, I would’ve remembered someone like you.” His eyes ran over me again, firing up my cheeks once more.
Annabelle exhaled. “Please be nice, Nico.”
His gaze shifted back to her. “I’m always nice, Annie.”
“On the rare occasion, and dinnae call me Annie, ye damn weel know I hate it.”
“Not my fault you have orange hair.”
He sat back down and picked up his sub, biting into it as though nothing bad had happened.
Annabelle slipped into the seat across from him, muttering, “What have ye got planned today?”
Instead of answering her, his eyes flicked to a sparrow as it flew down to a spot a few feet away from him, pecking at the crumbs on the floor. Swallowing his food, he broke off a piece of bread from his sub and threw it to the sparrow. The sparrow went for it, picking it up in its beak and flying out the door. Nico’s eyes followed it, a small smile tugging at his lips.
“Earth to Nico,” Annabelle said, rapping the table in front of him.
His eyes shifted back to her, almost looking startled as if he’d forgotten she was there. “What?”
“I asked what ye’ve got planned today.”
“Just getting stuff ready for the start of uni.” He took another bite of the sub.
She reached out, swiping it off him. He let her, watching as she took a bite out of it before handing it back.
He held it out to me. “You wanna steal my lunch, too?”
I shook my head, wishing I could leave instead, the guy making me feel deeply uncomfortable.
“Good, not like I have the cash,” he said, flicking Annabelle an annoyed look, “to give my food away.”
Annabelle grinned wide, a piece of lettuce stuck in her teeth. “I’ll make it up to ye.”
“With a roast dinner.”
“Ye pay for it, I’ll cook it.”
“But you can’t cook.”
“Looks like ye’ll be paying for it and cooking it, then.”
He laughed, then looked up at me. “You going to sit or what?”
I quickly slipped in next to Annabelle.
He frowned at me. “You really look familiar. You sure we haven’t met before?”
I shook my head, not willing to tell him that he’d ground his near naked body against me while I’d stared at the tip of his cock. I swallowed at the thought, hoping that my blush hadn’t spread down my neck, the guy worse than an infection.
“What’s your name?” he asked, not letting up.
“It’s Kady Janeway,” Annabelle answered for me, “as in Captain Janeway.”
Nico smiled, displaying a perfect row of pearly whites. “Nice to meet ya, Captain,” he said, holding out his free hand to shake.
I hesitated for a moment, getting a raised brow in response. I quickly lifted my hand and shook his, gasping as he jerked me forward, placing his face right in front of mine.
“Maybe I was drunk when I did you,” he said. “Shame. I’d like to remember that night.”
I jerked my hand free, what he’d said making my back stiffen, all embarrassment gone, annoyance now reigning in its place. “I don’t sleep around, and especially not with people who drink.”
His eyebrows shot up higher. “Is it because you’re a Mormon or something?”
“No, I just hate alcohol and what it does to people.”
“Why?” he asked, looking at me inquisitively with those strange, but beautiful eyes of his. It was almost as though he was peering into my soul, shifting through my Pandora’s box of emotions to see why I’d reacted so strongly.
“It’s none of your business,” I replied.
He leaned back in his seat, resting one of his arms over the back of it. “Guess you’re right, it isn’t my biz.” He cocked his head to the side. “Though, I’d like it to be. You free tonight?”
“What did I jus’ say all of a minute ago?” Annabelle asked.
Nico’s eyes shifted back to her. “What?”
“That ye weren’t allowed to get with ma roommate.”
“I only wanna talk.”
“Yeah, right, and am the pope.”
Smirking, he held out his sub to her. “Please take my small offering then, your royal majesty.”
“Ye know the pope is nae a queen nor a king, ye teasing numpty,” she said, but still took the sub, the rest of it in her mouth before he could reply.
He laughed and rose to his feet, his eyes going to me. “I look forward to figuring out who you are...” He paused. “Captain.”
I rolled my eyes at the name, annoyed it had followed me from school to university.
His smile turned into the same wicked grin I’d seen the night he’d stripped, making me worry that he’d figured out where he’d seen me. But instead of mentioning it, he spun on his heel and walked off, disappearing through the doorway, allowing me to let out the breath I hadn’t realised I was holding in.
“He’s quite something,” Annabelle said with a mouthful of Nico’s sub. She swallowed it down. “Though, I warn ye, keep away from him. He eats girls up and spits ’em oot, he’s also more than a bit loco.”
“He’s wild, does crazy things withoot caring aboot the consequences, things that are mental. It gets him into a world of trouble. Lucky I know a cop, otherwise he would’ve been thrown in the slammer more than once.” She shook her head. “Numpty.”
I laughed at the word, the girl amusing.
She looked at me sideways. “Nothing to laugh aboot, lassie. He looked at ye like ye’re on the menu next. Be verra careful, he knows his way aroond getting what he wants, which is hardly surprising with the way he looks.”
I grimaced, perfectly aware he could get any girl he wanted.
And dump them just as fast.

~ 3 ~
I gripped onto my backpack as I walked past the large Victorian Gothic church with its deep-red door and brick and stone exterior, heading down the walkway to the Fine Arts School. It was one of the most prestigious art schools in New Zealand, one I was absolutely stoked to have gotten into. I’d been told that I needed all A’s to have made it, but I was an average student at anything other than Art and Art History. It was just lucky that the selectors had seen something in my work, something they’d thought was worthy of a place in their school.
I squinted as I rounded the curve of the walkway, the New Zealand sunlight brighter than a nuclear blast. Although it was autumn, it looked like summer had decided to stay, stopping the neighbouring season from dropping its leaves and lowering the temperature, which was why I’d chosen to wear my frayed jean skirt and sleeveless jean jacket combo, with a bright yellow tank top underneath.
I walked past a row of bamboo trees, aiming for the entrance of the grey and white Fine Arts building. It looked like it had been taken out of an old fifties’ black and white film, with its corrugated overhang, concrete and panelled walls, and rows of rectangular windows that merged with a more modern-day addition. The main door was a lighter shade of red than the church’s, beckoning me inside a small foyer. There was a library on my left, a help desk directly in front, and a door on my right that I knew led to the classrooms. I did a quick check of my timetable before heading through that door, aiming for my Studio 1.1 class.
Finding the room surprisingly easy, I pushed the door open, so excited I was almost shaking in my sandals. A number of students were already in class, sitting around rows of work benches and chatting between themselves. I glanced about, hoping to see Julia, but it looked like she was running late—as usual, my best friend’s timekeeping not the best.
I chose a spot at the back of the class, slipping my jean jacket off before sitting down. I went to place my backpack on the chair next to me, wanting to save it for Julia, but the chair got swiped out from under my bag, causing it to drop to the floor. I let out a surprised shriek at the suddenness of it all, which would’ve been even louder if I’d known who’d done it.
Nico plonked himself down on Julia’s chair, giving me a happy smile. “Cool,” he said, dropping his backpack next to mine. “At least I know one person in class.”
“You c-can’t be in this class,” I stuttered, not believing the coincidence was possible, nor wanting it to be. I still couldn’t believe the stripper I’d masturbated over was my roommate’s friend let alone went to the same university as me. There was no way he could be in my Fine Arts class too!
He gave me a raised brow. “Then, why am I here, babes?”
“To hook up with me, and don’t call me babes,” I said, the name cringe-worthy.
“You’ve got some ego there, babe... See what I did?” he said, waving a finger. “I took the s off, which makes it a whole new word, plus babe suits you, because you’re a total babe, which means you totally deserve that massive ego of yours.”
I spluttered out, “I don’t have a massive ego,” not believing his gall.
He talked over me, “Anyway, what was that about hooking up with me? Because I’m totally in with that, we can have a party for two tonight.” He winked at me. “You know what I mean.”
“No,” I hissed, thinking his lines were worse than Moe’s from The Simpsons, but then again, he probably didn’t need to hone his pickup skills with the way he looked. Something that was making me even more flustered, especially with how close he was sitting to me, not to mention those freaky eyes of his. I’d asked Annabelle whether they were contacts, and she said they weren’t, that he had heterochromia—an eye condition that literally meant different colours.
He continued, “A party for two means—”
“I know what it means,” I cut him off. “You don’t have to explain.”
“Then, why did you say no?” he asked, as though he’d never heard that word before.
“Because I don’t want to hook up with you.”
His smile didn’t wane, not even one bit. “You’re saying one thing, yet I’m seeing something else.”
“Like what?” I said, annoyed he could tell I was attracted to him. It was probably my cheeks, which felt like they were melting. I wouldn’t be surprised if my amber eyes were dilated too, the guy sex on two legs.
“They say a girl can hide her arousal, but that’s definitely not true for you.” He indicated to my chest. “Your nipples are harder than my cock is right now.”
My eyes widened. “They’re not hard for you!” I blurted out, horrified he’d said that in public.
People turned to look at us, causing me to shrink in my chair. “Just leave me alone,” I hissed. “I’m not interested in being treated like that girl in the cafeteria. Just because you’re gorgeous doesn’t give you the right to be so horrible to people.”
He smirked. “You think I’m gorgeous?”
My face fell. “No, I mean, yes, you are, but just not to me.”
“Then, why are you blushing like a nun in a whorehouse?”
“It’s because you’re making me feel uncomfortable, so leave. Class will be starting soon.”
“Yes, my class, which is this one, which means I’m not going anywhere.”
“You are, you’re in my best friend’s seat.”
“She’s late, so it’s mine now.”
He leaned down to his bag, pulling out a small pad and a pencil case just as Julia walked into the classroom. She was wearing skin-tight capris and a light-pink top, with a dark-pink bra playing peekaboo underneath, something that would’ve gotten her sent home from the strict Catholic school we’d met at.
She stopped next to Nico, her eyes going from him to me, then back again, recognition then shock playing across her face. He straightened and looked up at her, raising a brow in question as to why she was staring at him.
The lecturer, or professor, whatever he was called, walked in right at that moment, causing Julia to quickly move to the table in front of us. She placed her bag on the table top and looked back at me with a question in her eyes, which flicked to Nico briefly. Luckily, he’d lowered his head again, looking at something on his phone.
I mouthed at her, “Turn around,” unable to explain why I was sitting next to him right at this moment.
“Please put your phones away,” the lecturer said, his eyes going to Nico.
Nico continued what he was doing, looking like he was typing out a text.
“I asked you to—”
Before the lecturer could get another word out, Nico tucked his phone away, probably having finished texting rather than doing what the lecturer wanted. He looked up at the lecturer as though he didn’t know why the man was looking at him. The lecturer frowned, but instead of harping on at Nico, he turned his attention to the rest of the class.
“I’m Mr. Gregory, but I’m happy if you call me Stuart. Though, one thing that I’m never happy about is the use of phones in my studio. Please turn them off before entering and do not take them out while in here. Since it’s your first day, I’ll let this indiscretion pass,” he said, aiming a look at Nico, “but not from tomorrow onwards. And be aware that most lecturers, tutors, and professors are like-minded. You’re here to learn not to socialise.”
Mr. Gregory started giving us a rundown on what his class would entail. As he continued, Nico nudged me.
“You free tonight?” he asked.
“No,” I said, doing my best to follow what Mr. Gregory was saying.
“Annabelle said you were.”
I whipped my head around to him. “You’ve been talking to Annabelle about me?”
“No,” he said, “but you didn’t deny not being free, so looks like you’re free to check out my dorm room.”
I stiffened. “I’m not interested in seeing it,” I hissed, making sure only he could hear. “I’m not going to sleep with you, Nico, so stop bugging me.”
“I didn’t ask you to, just wanted to show you my dorm room. You’re the only person I know in class, so I thought we could be friends. After all, we’re going to be sitting at the same table for this class, so why not?”
I went to tell him that I wouldn’t be sitting with him after today, that I’d be sitting with Julia, but he continued, not allowing me to get a word in edgeways.
“Annabelle can come too,” he said. “We hang out a lot together. We’ve been good mates ever since her uncle and my auntie married. Pity they didn’t stay together, but that’s their business, not ours.”
“At the back there,” the lecturer said. “There’s to be no talking while I speak, unless asked to.”
Nico’s eyes moved to him, giving him that cheeky smile of his. “Yes, sir.”
The lecturer raised a brow, probably not sure whether Nico was being a smart arse or not, then continued with what he was talking about. Nico’s attention shifted away from him, landing on Julia, who was taking sneaky glances back at him. If my leg was long enough, I would’ve kicked her chair to get her to stop it, but it was too late, Nico already noticing. He cocked his head to the side and stared right at her when she looked back one too many times. She flushed, something that Julia didn’t do that often, my friend usually the one who made boys flush. She quickly turned away, facing the front once more.
After class had finished, I grabbed my bag and went for the door, hoping Nico didn’t follow me, especially since Julia was going to drill me over him. I was in my next class quick smart, Julia snapping at my heels like a little Chihuahua dog. She took the seat next to me and went to open her mouth, but clamped it shut as Nico strolled through the door. His unusual eyes went to Julia, annoyance playing across them, as though she’d stolen his seat. But instead of saying anything, he took the chair in front of her, pulling his pad out of his bag again, along with his pencil case, no longer paying us any attention.
Julia placed her lips next to my ear. “That’s the guy from—”
“I know,” I said, cutting her off.
“Why were you sitting next to him, then?” she whispered.
“He knows my roommate,” I whispered back.
“Does he remember you?”
I shook my head. “Though, he wants me to come to his dorm room later.”
Her baby blues widened, then a smile pulled at her glossy pink lips. “Just make sure he wears a condom, don’t know where his dick has been.”
“I’m not interested.”
“How can you not be? He’s drop-dead gorgeous. I’d drop my knickers for him in a second.”
Nico looked over his shoulder with a big grin. “It’s a date, then, blondie. Bring the condoms. Extra-large.
“Nico,” I hissed. “You’re not getting with my best friend.”
His eyes moved to me. “You jealous?”
“Then, what’s the problem?”
“You don’t treat women very nicely.”
“That’s a two-way street.”
“What do you mean by that?”
He opened his mouth to answer, but closed it as the Drawing and Related Practices lecturer walked in. Nico turned to face the front, listening to her as she introduced herself.
Julia flicked me a What the hell?! look, then turned her attention to the lecturer. I tried to as well, but could barely take in what she was saying. Nico’s presence in front of me was a constant distraction, to the point where I wanted to beg the lecturer to end the class. So, as soon as it was finished, I was out the door like the Flash, hoping that this time I could lose Nico, though I knew there was no losing Julia, the girl Usain Bolt in heels.
She appeared beside me as I exited the foyer. “So, are you going to go to his place?”
“Of course not,” I said, glaring at her sideways. “Even if he didn’t ask you for sex, I wouldn’t go.”
“He was clearly joking, and if I were you, I’d take up his invite.”
“Hell, no. He’s a total fuckboy.”
“Even fuckboys have their uses, which are usually in bed.” She did a little shimmy as though she was imagining Nico between her legs. “You’ll be too busy kissing his gorgeous lips for him to talk, and once you’ve finished with him, toss him to the kerb. After all, if guys can do that to us, we can do it right back to them.”
“I’m okay with that,” a voice said behind us.
We stopped in our tracks and turned, finding Nico grinning at us, the so-and-so having snuck up without us realising.
He held up his phone. “By the way, Captain, Annabelle said she can make it tonight, which means you can come along with her.”
“Am I invited too?” Julia asked, smiling at him with her perfect veneers, interested in going where I wasn’t.
His gaze flicked to her momentarily. “Sure,” he muttered, obviously not caring whether she came or not. “So, are you coming, Captain?”
“Yes,” Julia answered for me. “We’ll be there. What time?”
“Seven,” he replied, his eyes remaining on me. “You wanna grab a bite before the next class?”
“No, I can’t,” I said, quickly formulating a lie. “I’ve got a meeting with one of the Art History professors.”
“Okay, see you later, then.” He nodded at Julia, then walked off, heading up the steep walkway.
Both Julia and I watched as he disappeared around the corner. As soon as he was out of sight, Julia turned to me. “What was that all about?” she growled, waving a finger about as though she was Beyoncé. “He totally ignored me, like I wasn’t even hot.” She indicated to her body. “This is hot!” She waved a hand in front of her face. “This is too!”
I laughed, knowing she wouldn’t have let his slight pass for long. “He must be blind, double J.”
“More like B,” she said, looking down at her boobs. She cupped them. “Do you think he would’ve looked at me if I had Double D’s like you?”
“Your tits are perfect as they are,” someone said before I could, though I wouldn’t have called them tits.
I looked over my shoulder as a really tall guy with muscular arms and a buzz cut came to a stop next to Julia. It looked like he should be walking into an army camp rather than out of an Art school, especially with his camo pants. He also had a cool black tattoo on his left forearm of a cityscape, the skyscrapers reaching for his bicep.
He indicated to where Nico had disappeared around the corner. “You should be careful of Nico Bilan,” he said, looking down at Julia, the height difference between them considerable, the guy well over six foot. “I’ve known him for years. He’s nuts.”
Julia stared up at him in what I could only refer to as awe. “How?” she breathed out, the guy fitting one of her types to a T. She had contrasting tastes, going from liking stunning, model-like men to total bruisers, especially if they were tall and muscular—like the guy standing before us. If anything, she probably preferred bruisers the most. She’d told me once that she loved getting her hands on ‘rough diamonds’ that she could shape and polish, and this guy was most certainly one of those. Though, she never succeeded in changing bruisers. Those types of guys always took her for a ride, squeezing out as much money from her as they could get, then leaving her high and dry as well as broken-hearted.
“Nico’s mental,” the guy replied, reminding me of what Annabelle had said about Nico. “He loses his shit real easy, rants and yells at things that aren’t there, as well as overreacts. I’d stay well clear of him.” He winked at Julia. “You’d be a lot safer with me.”
“Will I, now?”
“Most definitely,” he grinned, his front tooth chipped, not convincing me at all.
                                                   Chapter 3 continues...

                      If you want to read more, the links to the whole book are below...


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